I have a "Cat Stevens" station on Pandora, and they play a lot of Carole King, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell who were the other tops in that Genre. He just wasn't around that long. Too bad. He was absolutely brilliant. His best songs dealt with topics like being true to yourself, and deeper issues that were not too sappy but simply inspirational. Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor, giants though they were didn't really get into this area
His work is rather nice, but trivial. He attempted, but failed, to make his works have magical allusions according to the spirituality of the time. He made good use of emotive symbols, and managed to throw enough words of wisdom into his songs to appeal to the teenager of the early 1970s. I still like his stuff, particularly "Ruby" and "Peace Train" and have it in my collection to pull out every so often.
He was great and had a lot of fantastic songs, like Peace Train, but there were many great people and a lot of good music during that time. He is one of the best, but with Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, CSNY, and so on, I wouldn't say he was the best of the 1970s.
Cat Stevens was a great, no denying that. I personally liked Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath much better. Those choices maybe a little to mainstream for many people. You can't help what you like though. The 70's were really flooded with great music. It always makes me wonder if we will ever have another stretch of time where music was as good as the 60's and 70's.
While I think that Cat Stevens was a great singer and songwriter, as well as responsible for making some of the most memorable songs from the decade, I do not think he should be considered the best of that era. I think there were better song writers during that time. The Beatles are some of them.
The 1970s were an incredible time for music, and to pick one singer as the greatest in the decade would be to display an ignorance and disrespect of the music and era. So many great artists of so many varieties existed, and most lists would be subjective. It would be more appropriate to organize top ten lists or try to group songwriters into more manageable categories.
No, he is not the best singer or song writer that was during the 1970s. there were a lot of really good bands that came out then that could do way better that him, and that had a way bigger fan base than he ever did in his whole life.